Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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BAIRN, Bearn, n. and v. [bern, bɛrn]

1. n.

(1) A child, male or female; offspring of any age. Gen.Sc. Sc. 1909 Green's Encycl. Law Scot. 568:
In the law of succession, the Scotch word “bairns” means the children or issue of a person.
Sh. 1888 Edmonston and Saxby Home of a Naturalist 285:
When he cam to my side I pointed to oor bairn and I said, “She's the only thing o' the kind that we hae.”
n.Sc. 1743–1744 D. Cameron of Lochiel in Gael. Socy. of Inv., Unpublished Letters of Simon 12th Lord Lovat (1886) 368:
I beg leave to assure you and her, and all the lovely Bearns, of my most humble duty and affectionate respects.
Abd.(D) 1915 H. Beaton At the Back o' Benachie 95:
Cricky, 'oman, bit they are mair sharp nor the very minister's bairns, an' them jist the scaddins o' the streets!
Edb. 1894 P. H. Hunter J. Inwick 28:
I didna ken whaur I was, or what I was daein, nae mair nor a soukin bairn.

(2) Denoting the time of childhood; in childhood. Rxb. 1921 Hawick Express (27 May) 3/7:
Here leeved Betty Whutson, bairn an' wuman.

(3) Having the nature of a child. Sc. 1832 A. Henderson Sc. Proverbs 1:
Auld men are twice bairns.

(4) A peculiar extension of this word is used by fishermen in Orkney to mean the smaller of the two hills in taking their directions [Meeths] at sea. (See Marw.) Ork.1 1933:
We'll bring yin [yon] bairn in a line wi' the Brough o' Birsay.

(5) A term of contempt. Mry.2 1933:
Jock's naething bit a bairn, a big bullyin' breet.
Gall. 1898 A.W. in E.D.D.:
Bairn, is used sometimes in a pitying or semi-contemptuous sense, of a weak-minded or childish person.

2. v. To render pregnant. Slg.3 1917:
J. M. was bairning S. T.
Ayr. 1827 Burns ed. Merry Muses 14:
I've bairn'd the servants, gilpies both Forbye your titty Leah.
Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B. 47:
Bairn, to get (a woman) with child.

3. Combs.: (1) Bairn-clouts, a baby's clothes. Kcb. 1895 S. R. Crockett Men of the Moss-Hags iv.:
An' ye can help Jean to sew her bairn-clouts.

(2) Bairn-folk, children. Knr. 1891 “H. Haliburton” Ochil Idylls 57:
A lang array o' bairn-folk Thrangin' up was seen.

(3) Bairn's-bairn, a grandchild. Bnff.2 1932:
Gweed luck ta ye, ma lassie, an' may ye dandle yir bairn's bairns on yir knee.
Hdg. 1932 (per Edb.1):
Wee Annie is Elspeth's bairn's bairn.

(4) Bairnswoman, a child's maid or nurse. Ayr. 1823 Galt Entail ii.:
Eh! Megsty, gudeman, if I dinna think yon's auld Kittlestonheugh's crookit bairnswoman.

4. Phrases: (1) Bairn nor birth. (See quot.) Sc. 1879 Jam.5:
“She has neither bairn nor birth to mind,” denoting that a young woman is totally free of the cares of a young family.

(2) Bairns o' Falkirk, inhabitants of Falkirk. Slg. 1879 R. Gillespie Roundabout Falkirk 35:
The town coat of arms which had the well-known motto “Better meddle wi' the deil than the bairns o' Falkirk,” indicates a phase of temperament which will be better left unexplained.

(3) John Tamson's bairns, of one stock or family, friends. Lnk. 1827 W. Motherwell Minstrelsy, App. x.:
In the West Country . . . when a company are sitting together, sociably, and a neighbour drops in, it is usual to welcome him thus: — “Come awa, we're a' John Tamson's bairns.”

(4) One man's bairn(e)s, meaning as in (3). Sc. 1706 First Earl of Cromartie in Earls of Cromartie (ed. Fraser 1876) II. 4:
Then, whate're parties or persons doe manage and cary it [the Union] on, they have my best wishes . . . and then I hope that wee shall be all one man's bairnes.

[O.Sc. barne, bairn, bern, etc.; O.E. bearn; O.N. barn.]

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"Bairn n., v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 15 May 2021 <>



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